By Logan Lowery
STARKVILLE – Houston’s Chris Jones was expected to make an immediate impact for Mississippi State’s defensive line coming in as a consensus five-star prospect.
The 6-foot-5, 305-pounder did just that leading the Bulldogs with seven tackles for loss and three sacks as a true freshman. For his efforts, Jones was selected to the SEC All-Freshman team and was also an honorable mention for the All-SEC team as well.
“He’s a team player,” said MSU defensive line coach David Turner. “For a guy that was as highly recruited as he was, he came in with the right attitude and is starting to mature a little bit in terms of speed and what he has to do to get himself better. He’s an unselfish guy.”
Jones was a standout pass rusher at defensive end in high school but has packed on 50-pounds since his arrival in Starkville and spent most of the fall inside at tackle. He made three starts at defensive tackle but lined up at end in several packages.
Jones does not want to be labeled as a defensive tackle and has petitioned Turner to keep him in the mix on the outside at end.
“That’s a neverending saga with him,” Turner said. “I’m going to stick him out there some just to keep him happy. But he brings a different dimension out there. He’s a hard matchup for tackles in terms of speed and power and we try to create a mismatch with him out there at times.”
Turner has coached his share of star defensive linemen during his 27 years including the Bulldogs latest NFL first round draft pick Fletcher Cox.
Turner help mold Cox from a prep defensive end into one of the top defensive tackles in college football and believes Jones has the same type of potential.
“He doesn’t have a ceiling,” Turner said. “He can be as good as he wants to be. He’s big, strong, athletic, powerful and fast. He’s a freak and I like the direction that he’s going.”
First bowl game
Jones and the Bulldogs concluded their bowl practices in Starkville Friday morning. The team will report back to work Dec. 26 in Memphis in preparation for its Liberty Bowl matchup against Rice on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s exciting to get this experience,” Jones said. “I’ve never been to a bowl game so this is going to be wonderful. Just getting to go out here and have fun, go different places and experience some things is wonderful.”